The Goonies never had to face penalty kicks.
Playing with a makeshift defense and making do without talismanic forward Chris Wondolowski in the starting lineup, the San Jose Earthquakes nevertheless took top-seeded Toluca to sudden-death from the spot in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal before falling 5-4 on penalty kicks when Shea Salinas’ make-or-go-home attempt clanged off the crossbar.
It was a brutal finish in nearly 9,000-foot altitude for the Quakes, who followed their game plan to perfection and almost stole away with a victory in overtime.
Ty Harden’s opening goal for San Jose and Isaac Brizuela’s equalizer for Toluca left the clubs knotted at 1-1 through regulation -- matching the scoreline from last week’s opening leg at Buck Shaw Stadium. But Alan Gordon’s apparent goal in the 96th minute was called back for a hotly contested offside infraction, and the teams went to penalty kicks after 120 minutes.
San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch saved Toluca’s first attempt, from CCL leading scorer Raul Nava, but Toluca’s Alfredo Talavera did the same to Wondolowski, who came on as a second-half substitute.
Toluca scored on their next five shots, even though Busch got a hand to two of them. In the fourth round, Miguel Ponce snuck a low strike under Busch’s falling body. Wilson Tiago, shooting sixth, had his attempt deflected by Busch, but still barely spun in after crashing off the underside of the crossbar.
That left it up to Salinas, who couldn’t follow makes from Gordon, Sam Cronin, Billy Schuler and JJ Koval.
The Quakes, dealing with injuries all across their backline, sent out a patchwork crew in front of Busch. Winger Cordell Cato slid to right back for a second straight game, while Shaun Francis replaced Jordan Stewart on the other side. In the middle, San Jose partnered Harden -- getting his first competitive action in more than 11 months due to hip surgery -- and the rookie Koval, a defensive midfielder by trade.
But Toluca, who would have gone through with a scoreless draw, seemed satisfied to keep the ball with a succession of sideways passes, rather than immediately putting San Jose to the test. Busch didn’t have to make a save until the 22nd minute, and Toluca didn’t have a quality look until the 36th, when Juan Manuel Salgueiro fired a left-footed blast from 25 yards. A leaping Busch used his left hand to tip the drive over the crossbar.
Things were certain to change in the second half, with San Jose knowing they needed a goal, but the speed with which they did undoubtedly came as a shock to the crowd at Estadio Nemesio Diaz. After getting a 95th-minute goal from Gordon in the first leg, there was no waiting until second-half stoppage time in this one.
Atiba Harris drew a foul in the 56th minute, giving San Jose -- who were dangerous throughout this tie on set pieces -- a free kick just on the edge of their attacking third. Salinas curled in a teasing ball from the right side, and Harden held off Tiago to head it back to the far post, leaving Talavera -- who made several key saves in the first leg -- flatfooted.
The goal appeared to rouse Toluca’s fans; reports on Twitter said that the public-address announcer had to call for a stop to racist conduct under threat of suspension of the game.
On the field, the hosts responded with a spectacular strike from Brizuela. The San Jose native chested down an attempted clearance from a Toluca corner kick, and fired a wicked half-volley with his right foot from 27 yards.
Given the altitude, overtime would seem to favor Toluca, but it was San Jose who put the ball in the back of the net during extra time. The 96th-minute shot from Wondolowski was parried by Talavera, and Gordon pounced to slot it home, only to see the flag go up for a very close offsides call.
From there, it was up to Busch to save the day. First, he turned aside a stinging shot by Pablo Velazquez in the 98th minute. Then, he used a slight touch with his left hand to push a 118th-minute header from Antonio Rios into the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced out from there, ensuring the Quakes would see CONCACAF penalty kicks for the first time in franchise history.
Unfortunately for San Jose, they won’t get a chance at a second try this year.